ISSN 1756-297XIssue No: 0067 15 March 2009
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Despite its well-known commitment to equality, France has a two-tier university system with very different outcomes for its students. See the story in this week's Special Report on access and equity.

Academics and their carparks. It's a long-running battle and lecturers have lost yet another skirmish, this time in Australia where they have lost parking space to a student hub. See this week's Uni-Lateral in the opposite column.

The US peanut industry could benefit from high-tech processes developed at a US laboratory. See the story in this week's Business section.




The poor, disabled, indigenous and migrant children, often born of parents with little education, have long been excluded from university in most countries of the world. Their life chances seem determined for them at birth and the schooling they receive does not make up for the disadvantages imposed on them by their impoverished environments. Thus does society replicate itself with each new generation.

In recent years, however, governments have come to realise that the potential of millions of people is being wasted and that far more needs to be done to raise the education levels of all their citizens – young and old. In the following reports, we look at what is happening in countries where age-old discrimination based solely on race or family background is at last being tackled.

GLOBAL: Why equity in admission matters
Julia Gillard*
Equity is more than a moral issue, it is also an economic issue. Equity matters to national productivity. It has always done so but the global financial crisis brings a new urgency to the debate. Why? Because when the recovery does come we will need to ensure that everyone is able to fill the increasing opportunities presented by an expanding economy.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Maintaining access for the poor
John Richard Schrock*
While American Hispanics make up 15% of the US population, they only comprise 12% of higher education enrolments. Along with most other minorities and lower socio-economic groups, they are looking to community colleges and other sources of credits that will assist if they transfer to universities after the present financial tsunami is over.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Slow progress to widening participation
Diane Spencer
Some elite English universities are still failing to attract students from poor backgrounds despite £392 million from the government and the funding council over the past five years to help widen participation among students with no tradition of higher education, says a new report from a Parliamentary committee. MPs singled out the Russell Group of 16 major research-intensive institutions, including Oxbridge, London and Warwick, as the main culprits.
Full report on the University World News site


FRANCE: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – but not yet
Jane Marshall
It may seem odd that France, a nation whose motto boasts of ‘equality’, should have two unequal systems of higher education. One comprises the expensive, selective grandes écoles, originally established under Napoleon to train an elite leadership. The other consists of universities that are open to all school-leavers who have passed their baccalauréat exam and that have low fees fixed by the state. But these are too often overcrowded and suffer high student dropout rates, especially after the first year of studies.
Full report on the University World News site

GREECE: Access reform overdue
Makki Marseilles
Egalitarian but unfair, free but expensive, complex and complicated are some of the contradictions of Greek higher education that everyone knows and talks about but no one is willing to take the necessary measures to resolve them.
Full report on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Poor must be given access
Geoff Maslen
Australian universities are dens of inequity. Despite huge increases in enrolments over the past 30 years, despite the tens of billions of dollars spent by a succession of federal governments, despite a broadening of access, universities still open their doors most wide to the children of well-endowed, Anglo-Australian families. No longer: the federal government has announced that universities will have to increase their enrolments of disadvantaged students.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: Debate moves on from access to success
Karen MacGregor
Since the end of apartheid, access to universities for poor students in South Africa has grown phenomenally. Enrolment of (mostly disadvantaged) African and mixed-race students rose by 268% in the decade to 2006. But, in the face of low pass rates, the debate has moved on from access to success, and the government is considering extending three-year degrees to four years to include the foundational learning many under-prepared students need.
Full report on the University World News site

SPAIN: Quality of more concern than equal access
Rebecca Warden
Class and how it affects access to higher education is not a burning issue in Spain. It rarely makes the Spanish headlines and does not come in for the fierce debate that regularly grips the UK. Spanish academics believe that social class can affect a person’s chances of getting a good education, but that this factor comes into play long before a student reaches university.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report

IRELAND: `Civil war’ could fractures colleges
John Walshe
Secret talks between Ireland’s two biggest universities on a research alliance have alarmed other college heads. One was so annoyed he sent a leaked e-mail warning the Irish Universities Association representing the seven presidents it could “split into groups and civil war”.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: Concessions but strike continues
Government ministers have made a further concession to striking lecturers and researchers, postponing introduction of contentious teacher-training reforms by a year. But by the weekend, the six-week strike showed no sign of abating with ongoing university closures and protest actions, including nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday in the tens of thousands. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy came under attack by education unions for “tackling the problem” during a lunch with senior academics and researchers.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: New strategy to lure postgraduates
Brendan O’Malley
The UK government will publish a new framework for postgraduate research to maintain its leading position as a destination of choice for researchers, Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property David Lammy told higher education experts in London.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: Tertiary funding body imposes cuts
John Gerritsen
New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Commission has announced plans to cut more than 70 jobs, or about 20% of its total workforce, as the country’s new government tries to make savings in the public sector.
Full report on the University World News site

NEW ZEALAND: Surprise university merger proposed
John Gerritsen
New Zealand’s smallest university has unveiled a plan to nearly triple its research capability and become one of the top five land-based universities in the world by merging with a government-owned research organisation.
Full report on the University World News site

SOUTH AFRICA: First black leader for Free State
Karen MacGregor
Professor Jonathan Jansen, a renowned education academic, is to become the first black leader of South Africa’s University of the Free State, its council announced on Friday. It seems appropriate that a much-published scholar who has probed racism and reconciliation in recent books will lead a university that lost its previous vice-chancellor following a racist incident, involving white male Afrikaner students, that sparked outrage here and abroad
Full report on the University World News site


UK: S exuality challenge for universities
Diane Spencer
Positive images of l esbian, gay, bis exual and transs exual students in university brochures and websites influence students’ choice of institution, new research by the Equality Challenge Unit has shown. The unit, founded in 2001, is funded by the higher education sector and the funding councils.
Full report on the University World News site

IRELAND-CANADA: Surge in Irish language courses
To meet a big rise in Irish language courses in Canadian universities, the Irish government has established an awards programme to fund Irish language teachers and professors so they can spend time in Canadian universities while Canadian students will be able to visit Ireland to attend courses in the Irish language.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: New approach to liberal studies
Next October, the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin will begin offering a four-year degree leading to a bachelor of arts in value studies. Said to be the first of its kind worldwide, the college says the degree represents a new European approach to liberal education.
Full report on the University World News site


CHINA: Hong Kong professor denied entry into Macau
Jonathan Travis*
A Hong Kong professor and two pro-democracy politicians have been barred from Macau, raising serious concerns about academic freedom. AFP News reported that Johannes Chan, Dean of the University of Hong Kong’s law faculty, was turned away by immigration officers on 28 February when he went to give a speech at the University of Macau.
More academic freedom reports on the University World News site


US: Recession hits wealthy university
Keith Nuthall
One of America’s richest higher education institutions – Duke University in North Carolina – has unveiled a business plan to help it deal with the global recession. But the plan will see demand for student support clashing with declining revenues.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Commerc ialising wave energy
Emma Jackson
A research team at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland has renewed a relationship with Aquamarine Power, a leading marine technology energy company. Together they may create the next generation of wave power converters that could some day be an alternative source of power for European maritime states.
Full report on the University World News site

US: X-ray technology helps peanut farmers
Leah Germain
Researchers may sometimes complain they work for peanuts, but scientists at the USA’s National Peanut Research Laboratory have shown that this is not always a bad thing: they have developed new high-tech grading methods that could dramatically boost the American peanut industry.
Full report on the University World News site


A special report published last week in – the online publication reporting on science and technology for the developing world – looked at higher education’s role in achieving development goals and the roles of governments and funding organisations in building robust higher education systems. The articles below are among several featured in the series and follow a comprehensive background article that probes donor funding for higher education in developing countries over the last half century.

GLOBAL: Research governance policies threaten capacity
Phuong Nga Nguyen
Around the world, research-based knowledge is believed to enhance socio-economic development. So funding agencies, including governments, are pushing universities to focus on ‘usable’ research outputs. The way they bring this pressure to bear, through ‘research governance’, can either support and facilitate university research or hinder it, sometimes even damaging a university’s existing strengths.
Full article on the University World News site

GLOBAL: New thinking needed on innovation infrastructure
Arnoldo Ventura
Rapid technological changes and more sophisticated societies generate changing needs in developing countries and old methods, technologies and choices are not coping. More innovative approaches are required to tackle social conundrums and to clear paths for progress. The ingredients for these must be the information, experiences and skills people get through higher education.
Full article on the University World News site

UNI-LATERAL: Off-beat university stories

AUSTRALIA: Academics lose their car park to students
Academics at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne lost their car park to make way for a student-only project hub. The hub in the staff car park is for final-year students to use for group project work and to meet industry clients. Reversing the normal structure of university spaces, staff will be refused access to the hub unless invited by a student.
Full report on the University World News site

US: Freshmen study booze more than books
Nearly half of college freshmen who drink alcohol spend more time drinking each week than they do studying, suggests a survey involving more than 30,000 first-year students on 76 campuses who took an online alcohol education course last year, reports USA Today.
Full report on the University World News site


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ASIA-PACIFIC: Higher education sees rapid change
Facing an unprecedented expansion, Asian centres of higher education are looking for ways to diversify opportunities for learning, concluded the Asia-Pacific Sub-regional Preparatory Conference for Unesco’s 2009 World Conference on Higher Education held recently in Macao, China. The Asia-Pacific zone is the largest of the Unesco regions, containing over three billion people, or 60% of the world’s population, writes Hye-Rim Kim for the Bangkok Post. Its diverse geography, population, income and culture are reflected in the size and types of higher education institutions operating in the region.
More on the University World News site

AFGHANISTAN: Student facing 20 years in jail
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country’s highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence – writes Jerome Starkey for The Independent. The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan’s top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer.
More on the University World News site

UK: Tycoon gives Oxford £36 million
A wealthy benefactor last week pledged Oxford University up to £36 million (US$50 million) to help it combat any shortfall in cash as a result of the recession, writes Richard Garner in The Independent. Former Keble College alumni Dr James Martin, who made his fortune through books on information technology, has promised to match any research donations made to the university up to the tune of $50 million.
More on the University World News site

CANADA: The squeeze on science
From their high perches in the world of Canadian research, former national science adviser Arthur Carty and McGill University neuroscientist David Colman, see Canada at a crossroads in research and development, writes Mohammed Adam in The Ottawa Citizen. Despite the energy, tremendous potential and growing cachet of Canadian research scientists, experts believe the country is wandering, both for lack of adequate funding and a coherent vision from the government.
More on the University World News site

US: Thirteen reasons colleges are in mess
The economy may not have hit rock bottom, but the finger-pointing over what went wrong is well under way, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. In some ways, higher education has been a victim of the recession – but not a defenceless victim. Smart moves clearly helped some colleges and universities avoid the worst of the downturn. But mistakes have left many others in the lurch.
More on the University World News site

US: Colleges share applicants’ anxiety
It’s not much solace for nervous college applicants awaiting acceptance or rejection letters, but there is plenty of anxiety this month inside college admissions offices as well, writes Larry Gordon in the Los Angeles Times. Many colleges and universities in California and around the country report unprecedented uncertainty about how the depressed economy and state budget cuts could affect enrolments. As a result, they say they cannot rely this year on the admission formulas that typically help them hit enrolment targets without overcrowding dorms.
More on the University World News site

US: Boom amid bust: Med schools grow as economy tanks
You wouldn’t know there was an economic crisis the way the medical school business is booming these days, writes Associated Press’ David N Goodman in the Chicago Tribune. Responding to warnings of a looming doctor shortage, existing schools are increasing enrolment, and new ones are opening or under development from El Paso in West Texas to Kalamazoo in West Michigan.
More on the University World News site

US: Sustaining study abroad
Sustainable study abroad. “It almost seems like an oxymoron,” says Daniel Greenberg, executive director of Living Routes, an Amherst-based provider that runs study abroad programmes in eco-villages, writes Elizabeth Redden for Inside Higher Ed. The perception of paradox, Greenberg says, has in some ways frozen the field. The prevailing sense is this: “You can’t be sustainable studying abroad, so how can you talk about it?”
More on the University World News site

KENYA: Admission crisis to ease with proposed funding
The biting university admission crisis in Kenya could soon ease should a proposal to double funding for public universities from July sail through, reports Business Daily. Estimates from Treasury show that state subsidies to the seven public universities will double to Sh26 billion (US$338 million) in the coming financial year as the government weighs options on the admissions crisis.
More on the University World News site

US: LA’s animal terrorists
Last Monday in Washington, President Barack Obama heralded the return of what he terms “sound science” to the administration of federal policy, writes Tim Rutten in a column in the Los Angeles Times. At that moment in Los Angeles, a joint federal and local law enforcement task force was investigating the latest incident in a three-year-old terrorist campaign being waged against University of California, Los Angeles, medical researchers. This time, a group that calls itself the Animal Liberation Front firebombed a car belonging to a neuroscientist whose research into psychiatric disorders involves primates.
More on the University World News site

US: Rash of university data breaches
Purdue University last month reported its seventh data breach in the past four years, writes Jay Cline in Computerworld. But Purdue is hardly alone. According to my records, over 300 publicised privacy incidents have occurred at US institutions of higher learning since 2001, with at least 53 colleges and universities experiencing multiple breaches.
More on the University World News site

SCOTLAND: University campaign to raise £100 million
Scotland’s oldest university is to launch a multi-million pound American-style fundraising campaign later this year to mark its 600th anniversary and help bring in more students from poor backgrounds, writes Andrew Denholm in The Herald. St Andrews, which was founded in 1413, hopes to raise at least £100 million as part of its anniversary celebrations, which run from 2010-2013.
More on the University World News site
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